How are you supporting your mental health during the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19)? As schools and workplaces around the world close and social distancing increases to “flatten the curve” of exposure, you’re likely struggling to cope with the added stress this disease has added to your life.
If you’re feeling fearful and anxious, you’re not alone. Our media streams and social feeds are full of people expressing their despair, worry and concern for how this pandemic will ultimately impact their lives. Disrupted schedules, uncertainty about employment and access to basic resources is causing a wave of panic for even those among us who typically seem unshaken by the events of the day.
For people already struggling with mental illness, this time of increased stress is pushing the limits of our sense of sanity. Thoughts may more frequently drift to negative anticipation of the future, irritability in relationships might be growing as we bump against one another in close quarters and reports of the impact of the disease on lives around the world may lead us to sink into sadness.
Signs of coronavirus related anxiety and depression might look like the following in your life:
difficulty focusing or sleeping
excessive fear and worry about your health and that of friends and family
changes in eating patterns like loss of appetite or overeating
increased use of or desire for substances like alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
new or worsening challenges to existing physical health conditions.
Taking care of your mental health is critical during this time. Beyond helping you to feel better emotionally, there is a direct connection between our mental health and the strength of our immune system. Quite literally your ability to care for your psychological health could affect your body’s response to a physiological threat.
Below we’ve outlined our guide to helping you manage your mental health through the coronavirus outbreak.
1. Reach out to a mental health professional to maintain your psychological and emotional health. If you have previously struggled with mental health challenges or are newly experiencing distress from anxious or depressive thoughts, now is the time to connect to a therapist. Many therapy practices in New York City, like Healthy Minds NYC, are currently offering telehealth and phone sessions to provide remote care if you’re unable to meet in the office. If you’re not sure where to begin, contact our office for a free consultation with our care coordinators to guide you on the next steps.
2. Limit your media consumption but stay informed. As we all work to make sense of the impact current events may have on our future lives, the media is producing a great deal of content covering various aspects of society. Being inundated with facts, opinions and projections can often exacerbate anxiety rather than inform. Select 2-3 reputable sources to follow, such as the CDC, New York Times and the World Health Organization. Then check them only 1-2 times a day at designated moments (such as once after breakfast and before you close out your workday).
3. Focus on caring for your basic needs. Our impulse during stressful times is often to place our immediate needs on the back burner so we can address the crisis at hand. However, during a disruption is exactly the time when it’s most important to prioritize practicing rhythms of self-care. Elevate your personal needs. Maintain a healthy diet by eating regular, balanced meals. Avoid alcohol or drugs to manage the stress. Get exercise however possible by taking a walk, practicing yoga indoors or doing a virtual fitness class. Try downloading the Nike Training Club app which offers virtual workouts or access a vast library of Yoga and meditation classes from a site like Glo.
4. Spend time on replenishing activities you enjoy. Now is the time to indulge yourself with healthy activities you love doing. Spend time reading the novel that’s been sitting on your bedside table for the past few months. Turn on your favorite musician and dance in the kitchen. Find a new show on NetFlix or take an online class. (We offer a great class on discovering your life purpose called Clarify My Calling if you want to center your thoughts on meaningfully finding your place in the world.) Pick up knitting or do a home facial. Practice one thing a day that gives you energy and delight.
5. Connect with the people you love. Reach out to friends and family by phone or video conference to check in and break through the sense of isolation. Now is a great time to reconnect with old friends from or distant family remembers to remind yourself that even when isolated, you’re not truly alone.
If you need someone to connect with who will be a neutral, supportive voice to help you manage your emotions during this time, our team is standing by to help. Reach out to Healthy Minds NYC today for a free consultation so we can get through this difficult time together.